Jane Austen in India
By Deborah Yaffe, May 13 2013 01:00PM
How awesome is this? A sixteen-year-old girl in Mumbai, India, has founded the city’s first Jane Austen club. "I've been fascinated by Austen since the seventh grade,” Anvita Budhraja said.
The club launched with a Jane Austen birthday celebration last December; since then, moving with impressive speed, they’ve already held a panel on Austen’s contemporary relevance, a fan fiction contest, a discussion pegged to the two hundredth anniversary of Pride and Prejudice, and an outreach event for high school students. You can’t beat the energy level of teenage girls.
Budhraja isn’t the first person to find Austen relevant to contemporary India: we’ve had Bollywood updates of both Emma (“Aisha”) and P&P (“Bride and Prejudice”) and a Tamil film version of Sense and Sensibility (“Kandukondain Kandukondain,” known in English as “I Have Found It”).
And India isn’t the only place to find Janeites outside the Anglo-American world. On the Republic of Pemberley, a Janeite from the Czech Republic wrote recently about how the 2005 film of P&P, starring Keira Knightley, jumpstarted Czech fandom. In her 2012 memoir All Roads Lead to Austen, Amy Elizabeth Smith describes the Spanish-language Austen discussion groups she convened during a year of travel in Central and South America.
Janeites really are everywhere. Although my book focuses primarily on the North American variety, the most numerous branch of the fandom, it’s fascinating to realize how deeply Austen’s stories resonate even in cultures that appear to have little in common with the world of Regency England.
It is very fitting that there should be a Jane Austen club, since the author herself was born in India, in Calcutta, in 1761.
As I show in my book "Jane Austen - a New Revelation" the real author of the Jane Austen novels was Jane Austen's cousin and sister-in-law, Eliza de Feuillide. Although she was praised as a great novelist in her lifetime, she was not able to publish under her own name as she was the illegitimate daughter of the famous Warren Hastings, the Governor General of India.
An interesting project for the Jane Austen Society in India would be to discover the birthplace of England's greatest novelist in Kolkata.